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Tracing the Footsteps of Master Painter

The city's Liu Haisu Art Center will host an exhibition featuring works by Liu Kang from January 7 to 20.

Born in 1911 in Yongchun, Fujian Province, Liu is a former student of Liu Haisu (1896-1944) - a heavyweight name in contemporary Chinese art, who took the lead in introducing Western oil painting skills into traditional ink-wash creations.

Liu Kang, one of Singapore's best-known artists, is devoted to canvas instead of rice paper. He's also captivated by Impressionism, and in his works there are perhaps too many traces of Gaugin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and others.

The reason is quite simple.

After graduating from Shanghai Xinhua Arts Academy in 1928, Liu left for Paris. It is during his five-year stay there that he established his personal style - an integration of Western and Chinese arts.

Matisse once remarked that "Chinese artists are elegant beings with lucid minds" - no doubt referring to the rustic, simple and spontaneous elements in Chinese art.

"I paint with Western painting material and tools, but my style and substance are Chinese, and the realm of my paintings is typically Oriental," says Liu.

Scenes of tropical life are a repeated theme in his paintings. Due to this, he is considered the founder of "Nanyang," or Southern Sea, style. He gives his own interpretation of the genre.

"In my view, 'Nanyang' style can be defined in three aspects. First, the theme should be the south seas, reflecting their tradition or landscapes and customs. Second, the painting style should be expressive, spontaneous broad-sweeping rather than rigidly descriptive. Third, the tone of the painting should be bright and light, in combination with relaxed but steady brush strokes and lines."

"Liu Haisu's art was massive, powerful, solid and weighty," said Zheng Peiren, curator of the art center, "But there are more poetic touches, purity, serenity and harmony in Liu Kang's paintings."

Liu Kang, described as "a pillar of the southern sky" in art circles, was President of the Society of Chinese Artists between 1946 and 1958, and a founding member of the Singapore Art Society, where he served as president for 10 years.

In recognition of the artist's lifetime accomplishments and contributions to Singapore's visual art community, Liu was awarded the Public Service Star in 1970, and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1996.

(eastday.com 01/05/2001)

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